Steven Alton from Animal Sun talks Music, Fandom, and More!

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Fandomize recently had an opportunity to chat with Steven Alton, the lead singer in the band, Animal Sun! Animal Sun recently wrapped up a tour that they were on opening for Kelsy Karter. The band also recently released a music video for their song, “I’m Already Dead.” Check out the interview below!

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Shaun Hood: Since seeing Animal Sun recently perform during your tour with Kelsy Karter, I’ve listened to a lot of your music on Spotify, and also learned a little bit about the growth that the band has had since first getting started. Tell me about how Animal Sun came about. How did the band come together?

Steven Alton: Animal Sun came from an era when we watched a lot of movies and shows like, Stand by Me, Stranger Things, and It: Chapter One. Our friend group was a lot like that, and we would kind of run wild around a very rural mountain town, we were big skateboarders. Sometimes we’d travel city to city. During the summers, we literally would live like animals. I mean, we wouldn’t do anything but travel, run crazy in the woods, and build forts. It was nuts. We used to run wild like animals, so “Animal” kind of came from that period of time of just being completely free to do whatever we wanted. That’s where animal came from. It was the most basic, natural state that I think I’ve been in my whole life, where you’re just living to live.

Sun was my best friend. His name was James Sun, my and Will’s best friend. He died when we were 16. I mean, we already were interested in music, we were already playing in bands. We started doing that when I was 13, and Will was 11. We had already been in the music thing, really big into Smashing Pumpkins and The Strokes, and people like that. James was almost like an unreal type of person. He quite literally never said a bad word about anyone ever for any reason, no matter how horrible they were. He was like a saint in a lot of ways. I remember telling my friends, being like, “Why is this human being so universally forgiving and just kind of loved by everyone?” So, when he died, I lost all hope for a bit, and I kind of just decided to focus on, like, “Ok, he’s passed on. What is the meaning of life?” You know what I mean? It kind of sparked this whole thing at a very young age. I decided to become obsessed with music. I decided to dedicate my entire reason for being on this Earth is to reach as many people as possible – go out with crowds, connect with people. We were told on this tour multiple times by fans that our first album saved their life, saying, “Oh, wow, if it wasn’t for that album, I wouldn’t be alive today.” That, to me, when James passed on and that whole era in general, is who we’re talking to. The kids who are going through that, who are growing up and going through what we went through. I mean, we’re still in our mid-20s, so we’re still kind of kids, but I think the band came up from that whole idea of how it gets better, “It’s bad right now, but it gets better.”

We started in local scenes. Around 2014 is when we kind of came out as Animal Sun. We started to play the college circuits, opening for bigger bands like the Flights before this Kelsy Karter tour, and now we have our Dreamers collaboration. Up until 2018, we were Virginia-based, and then we kind of just went completely balls to the walls, man. We moved to LA right before the pandemic started, and we just threw everything at it. When the pandemic hit, we said, “Fuck that, we’re making an album. Fuck that, we’re going on tour.” We just are relentless, man, and really this band has only been around in its current form for not even three years. It’ll be three years this summer, but Animal Sun has been around since 2014. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that.

So, the fact that we’re at over 153,000 monthly listeners with six million plays in three years is great. The growth of that is astronomical. Of course, I always think back to how we’ve been doing this for 10 years, but the reality is that this project in its current form has been around for only three. Not even three, it’s been two and a half, really. So that’s kind of where the band name came from and how we worked our way up.

SH: What has this tremendous growth within Animal Sun’s fanbase been like since you started? How does it feel to keep making more and more progress in making your mark in the music industry?

SA: To be honest, you kind of get lost, and the goal posts always move. We’re getting over 25,000 plays a day right now. Two years ago, I would’ve never believed that was possible. Now, we’re thinking, “how do we get 50,000 a day? How do we get a million a month?” We’re up to 600,000 plays a month. Right? So it’s like, for me, that goal post is always moving. So, what I focus on more than anything these days, Is the live shows. New York was sold out. I’m pretty sure Philly almost sold out too. Those types of shows is why we’re doing this.If I focus on the tremendous growth of the band, I’ll get bogged down on the day to day numbers. So, one day we got 30,000 plays a day. Next day we got 23, you know what I mean?

SH: What has it been like performing in so many different cities around the US? Any memorable moments with the band, fans, or even the fellow musicians?

SA: Yes, I will tell you right now, performing in New York was probably my favorite show I’ve ever played. I got dragged off the fucking stage while playing guitar and crowd surfed across the venue. That was crazy. Plus, the energy there was just insane. Whenever you play a sold out show, it doesn’t matter if they’re your crowd or not. As long as the genre of music is right, it’s like a party. Cleveland stood out to me. Somebody’s first time crowd surfing was in Cleveland to “Can You Hear The Thunder?” at the end. In Denver, we made the most I’ve ever made in merch. Also, we have a lot of fans in Denver and my mom lives there, so we got the day off afterwards just relaxing in Boulder. What an amazing time! Honestly, I’m going to remember those three shows for the rest of my life – Cleveland, Denver, and New York. Boston was a surprise. I thought Boston was going to be small and it turned out to be pretty big.

SH: Tell us about the creative process behind your song, I’m Already Dead, and the music video too.

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SA: So that was an idea that I had solely based off of making fun of TikTok, and social media in general. I was just like, “We have progressed as society to measuring followers and online credibility beyond everything – musicality, talent, personality, star, it-factor.” All those things are kind of seen as, “Oh, that can be manufactured.” But the truth is, that, just because you have followers doesn’t mean you have fans. Right? So when we were working with Kenny, who’s famous for being Awolnation, and writing Sail and a bunch of other shit, he’s the only guy I know with a diamond plaque. I know lots of people with platinum and gold, but never diamond. So then we worked with Dreamers – for years, I always wanted to work with them, play with them, or I just was obsessed with their music. I was streaming it all the time going skateboarding and it was crazy to have them on a song. It’s like having one of your heroes on a song. That, for me, is a full circle moment.

So, everybody hates social media. Dreamers, us, Kenny, everybody hates it. Right? So we’re like, “Okay, here’s an opportunity to create something really cool, and kind of go a little bit deeper with it.” I know the video is funny, but we definitely threw some really ominous shots in there at the end, like when he’s walking with the joker makeup on, the sunset behind him, you have the ominous music playing like he just lost everything after doing all that.

He was an actor. I thought it was really powerful that Dreamers and I were not in the video, because, oftentimes, being artists in music videos is just performance shots in cool-looking locations. Even MGK’s video that won the VMA, was just a performance video. Where is the artistry from Welcome To The Black Parade anymore? It’s not there. I understand that we’re low budget, but, if you look at other music videos as well, we really push the part as far as you can possibly go within any band, and still compete with a lot of these professional looking videos, especially “Chasing Shadows.” I love that music video. That video is, I think, peak Animal Sun for me so far. Now the song we’re releasing next month will beat it as long as the music video is as good as that one.

SH: What was it like putting together your album, Echoes of a Dream?

SA: It was an incredible experience. Honestly, I love that album. I hated a lot of the music we were releasing up until “Girl In Blue” came out, and even then we had a couple of other EPs and stuff that were released after “Girl In Blue,” which were kind of other A&Rs and people in the industry telling us we should look and sound like this. We ended up deleting that stuff, and keeping Girl In Blue in summer 2020 and saying like, “Ok, ‘Girl In Blue,’ is it! Look, it’s got 300,000 plays. People like this song. Let’s build our brand and album around this song as we originally intended and stop letting people in this industry tell us what to do because clearly they have no idea what we’re doing. When we decided to look and sound how we wanted to, we made “Girl In Blue” and it was successful. When we decided to listen to somebody else, that’s when we lost the authenticity.

So when we made Echoes, everything from the cover to how every song flowed into each other, to the concept of a toxic relationship that actually works out in the end, was designed to feel iconic. To this day, I still feel like we created something with that record that hasn’t really seen its full potential yet. I think in a couple of years that album’s going to be a hell of a lot bigger than even the guys or I ever intended or thought it was going to be. I mean, those songs mean the world to me.

We put so much love, care, and craft into articulating every lyric that was in “Can You Hear The Thunder,” all the way to the whispering background vocals that you can hear in “The Divide.” The lines that I wrote in “The Divide,” which is our walkout track now for every show we play – I wrote those lyrics two weeks after James died when I was 16. Like, “You’re a winner in my eyes. So what if you always lose? A siren wails like an angel cry,” stuff like that. I was 16 when I wrote that, so it’s really special to me. We also put that album out on James’ birthday last year, so that album is our ode to James and that whole era in general. We’re also pulling from a lot of our favorite bands.

I think we pushed the boundary a lot further on this new one. I like this new album better, but I will say that putting together those songs for Echoes has been nostalgic, because it was during a time when the world would come to a stop. So all we were doing was just recording music and hiding away from the world. We would go out into the woods, and that was it. All you could do was go hiking or make music, which for me, was all I really wanted to do. So it was great. To answer your question, it is something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.

SH: What is your upcoming album, Generation Waiting, going to be like? Anything you want to tease?

SA: Yeah. I’ll tease something here; we have a single coming out in three weeks. We’re going to announce it in about two weeks. It’s all about online dating, or just the state of dating in today’s modern world in general. It’s really heavy. It’s kind of like a mix between Royal Blood, Muse, and Panic! At The Disco – I would say those three bands. It’s got really heavy riffs, but a lot of Brendon Urie style vocals in terms of the way we stack harmonies and the hooks and whatnot. So I’m very excited for that one to come out.

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SH: Is there anything else that you’re working on or that you have coming up that you would like our readers to know about?

SA: The new album will come out in July. I’m very, very, very excited about that record. If you liked the first album, this album’s on a different level. We will also be touring this fall!

Steven Alton can be found on Instagram at @_stevenblake_, and Animal Sun can be found on Instagram @animal_sun, and on Twitter @AnimalSun. Check out Animal Sun’s upcoming single, “Next Mistake,” getting released on May 27th!